This remnant of the age when social scientists ruled the earth is located at the back entrance of the Avard-Dixon Building at Mount Allison. Some elite really must have fought to preserve this bit of 1950s modernism, seemingly based on a dream of bar graphs, for it to have survived the facilities beautification campaign of the turn of the millennium. The more angular be-bop-inspired designs at the front entrances of Hunton, Bigelow and Bennett Houses did not make it into the present day. Does this mosaic look like a shower room floor tilted on its side? Pretty much. But its cyan, yellow, and orange offer a visual break from the red and grey sandstone uniform worn by the rest of the university, and, bonus, it helps remind us of the writings of Canadian sociologist John Porter. Douglas
As allergic to ornamentation as mid-20th-century modernist architecture was, it did embrace one art form, the mosaic. Nearly any shopping mall constructed in the 1950s or 1960s had an abstract mosaic wall somewhere, usually near the fountain. Today in nearly every case both mosiac and fountain have been renovated away.
The mosaic in the Tory Science Building at Carleton University has survived perhaps because it is one of the oldest things at Carleton (the university was begun for the benefit of returning WWII servicemen), because it is just so huge, but probably because it stands out as one of the best and best preserved examples of its type.
The mosaic was unveiled in October 1962 after ten months' construction, and was considered such a striking piece of work that it was featured on the cover of the July/August 1963 issue of Canadian Art magazine. It was designed by Gerald Trottier and put together by the Connolly Marble, Mosaic and Tile Company of Toronto. Fittingly most of the artisans were Italian-Canadians. It measures 11 feet high by 168 long, wrapping around a circular lecture hall. The individual bits are made of marble or glass, so the colour has held fast. Only a few tesserae have gone missing. I'd expect the university has a pretty strict Post No Bills policy.
The theme of the piece is "the struggle of man to overcome his environment". In the early Sixties the Earth was considered something of an alien planet. Had the mosaic been designed more recently they would have been obliged to include man spinning the environment over his head and then body slamming it on the ground. The pre-Cycladic human figures must originally have suggested a choir of engineers, but now they seem invested with a kind of hip hop credibility.
At the risk of sounding like a dead white male, or an Ottawa Citizen columnist, certain good old practices have disappeared, and one of them is women standing with their arms garlanded. This mosaic is part of the vaulted foyer of the Metropolitan Building at the corner of Wellington and Bank, and was executed in the 1920s, as you can tell from the clothes. The women are holding hands in a pattern never seen today but quite common at the time. Here's a skating photo from the same era:
Doesn't this just say social harmony? Where did it go? The same place as all those dances, and men's hats and handkerchiefs, I guess. Better get Martha on it. If she can get everyone on earth to tie a scarf the same way, she can surely bring this back.